Translation and localization do not always go smoothly, even for the most experienced linguists

Even when translating from or into a language with a rich vocabulary, sometimes translators need as many as five or six words to translate a word.

So translation requires creativity and excellent knowledge of sentences and concepts to make the text from the source language come across correctly in the target language. In this article, we take a look at untranslatable words from different languages.

Language gap and lexical hole

Every language occasionally has a word for which there is no real equivalent. This is called language gap or lexical hole. Instead, a description of the word is required. Such a gap is all caused by cultural differences. Some differences are easy to notice, while for other words you have to look deeper into the context to understand the term properly.

  • Language and culture go hand in hand, which is why localization is so important. Synonyms can help you understand the exact meaning of each word, but cultural knowledge is essential for an accurate translation.


Loanwords are words from other languages, but used so frequently in many countries that they are considered part of the world’s language. Some are even so “Dutchified” that we don’t even notice that they come from another language anymore. A few examples:

  1. English – photo, website, scrolling, marketing, e-mail, downloading, multitasking, etc.
  2. French – ambulance, balloon, mood, success, cash, etc.
  3. German – anyway, ├╝berhaupt, fingerspitzengef├╝hl, muesli, etc.
  4. Arabic – alcohol, caravan, parrot, giraffe, sugar, etc.

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